THE CHIMP PARADOX
Professor Steve Peters
Effective ways to manage your chimp...
Being a bibliophile of literature books over the years, my heart suddenly felt thirst for some books of psychology. Besides, thinking that my bookcase needs a new resident for its space, I could not resist myself from ordering Professor Steve Peter's bestseller 'The Chimp Paradox'.Professor Steve Peters' book, "The Chimp Paradox" provides a way of getting to grips with it all. Peters has worked in clinical psychiatry for over 20 years. The author is also an Undergraduate Dean at Sheffield University Medical School.Peters starts the book with the brain. Peter's "psychological mind" combines with, the frontal, the limbic and the parietal. Peter has given the three elements of the psychological mind labels that help us understand how they interact. Peter calls the frontal as the Human, the limbic as the Chimp, and the parietal as the Computer! "These three brains", says Peters, "- are joined up, but they struggle against each other to gain control."
The Human (the frontal) is you. This part is rational, thoughtful, sober, disciplined, caring, focused, calm, and professional. But the Chimp part of our brain is an emotional being that developed separately in the womb. Our Chimp is the source of feelings, of emotions. The Chimp is four times stronger than the Human, and can hijack our behaviour. Peter says, "You are not responsible for the nature of your Chimp, and the Chimp is not good or bad - it's just a Chimp after all (!) - but you are responsible for managing it." The third part of the psychological mind is the Computer. The Computer is the storehouse of our habits, routines and habitual responses. Both the Human and the Chimp lay down programs in the Computer, some are good and helpful.
The Human is generally in charge when everything is going along quietly. You are working away, dealing with people calmly. The Computer is humming along in the background. The Chimp is asleep. But then there's a threat to something your Chimp cares about. It wakes and immediately becomes alert and anxious. What does the Chimp care about? Mainly survival, and in the jungle that's all about physical security, being a member of a troop, being able to get food, being able to reproduce, and guarding territory.
A colleague starts talking about running a project that you are responsible for. Your territory is threatened. The Chimp doesn't like it. The first thing that happens is your Chimp checks the Computer to see if there are any programs that deal with this sort of thing. If you are lucky, there's a nice autopilot in place that is used to dealing with territorial threats of this nature; it quickly calms the Chimp by telling it to listen to the colleague and take the input as constructive. If there is no autopilot in there, the Chimp will start to get anxious - and Chimps see things emotionally. They don't think - they react. They see the world in black and white, they jump to conclusions, and they are paranoid, irrational and assume the worst.
The Chimp's anxiety will take control over you and get you to respond fight, flight or freeze.
After reading the book I became almost assured that my Chimp often hijacked me with its tricky manners. Peter says that the Chimp can be destructive, but can also be your friend. However I figured out that my chimp is the destructive one. And I also learned that my naughty chimp needs some special care to abide by my rules.
Perhaps more importantly, understanding the interplay of the Human, the Chimp and the Computer can give you an insight into your behaviour. He explains how you can build better autopilots to help the Computer, and how you can manage your Chimp. The payoff may not be an Olympic gold medal, or victory in the Tour de France, but it might just be that you become the person you want to be (which is the person Peters says you really are) a little bit more of the time.
We do so many things and don't even realize why we did those. Like, you have ditched a meeting you should have attended and later you regret. One day you feel intimidated by a crowd and suddenly shout. Again another day you bad-mouth a friend without any reason or you claim a credit for something you didn't do. There are plenty of actions which have no justification.
The reviewer is with The Daily Observer